KATSU’s Graffiti Drone

April 11, 2014 | Andy Cush

In the video above, graffiti artist KATSU pilots a DJI Phantom II drone with a spray paint can affixed, peppering a series of canvases with paint. He’s exhibiting the works at the Silicon Valley Contemporary Art Fair, which opened yesterday.

Though KATSU is technically in control, he says the quadcopter is partially responsible for any creative decisions that go into the work. “It’s like, I’m telling this device to basically accommodate this new attached payload that has an unusual shape, which then changes the drone’s shape. The drone is suddenly trying to adjust in real-time to the decreasing weight of the paint as the can empties,” the artist told Motherboard. “The flight patterns, the gestures, are my control.”

He added: “They’re really exciting to come back to and reflect on over and over and over, because you pick up all these little details and nuances. You begin to understand that this really can only be accomplished through this bizarre dance between me controlling the drone and the drone doing its own thing.”

According to KATSU, he’d like to add the ability to preprogram flight paths to later versions of the drone — something that artist-hackers Allison Burtch and Ramsey Nasser were also pursuing at last year’s Drones and Aerial Robotics Hackathon. “It could go where the [graffiti] writer couldn’t go,” Burtch told ANIMAL at the time.

Whatever KATSU builds, anyone with access to a drone will be able to use it. The artist says he plans on open-sourcing the technology, “to allow graffiti writers and other artists around the world to rapidly start experimenting and iterating this and start playing with it.”